From particlebites: “Going Rogue: The Search for Anything (and Everything) with ATLAS”

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From particlebites

May 5, 2018
Julia Gonski

Title: “A model-independent general search for new phenomena with the ATLAS detector at √s=13 TeV”

Author: The ATLAS Collaboration

Reference: ATLAS-PHYS-CONF-2017-001

CERN/ATLAS detector

When a single experimental collaboration has a few thousand contributors (and even more opinions), there are a lot of rules. These rules dictate everything from how you get authorship rights to how you get chosen to give a conference talk. In fact, this rulebook is so thorough that it could be the topic of a whole other post. But for now, I want to focus on one rule in particular, a rule that has only been around for a few decades in particle physics but is considered one of the most important practices of good science: blinding.

In brief, blinding is the notion that it’s experimentally compromising for a scientist to look at the data before finalizing the analysis. As much as we like to think of ourselves as perfectly objective observers, the truth is, when we really really want a particular result (let’s say a SUSY discovery), that desire can bias our work. For instance, imagine you were looking at actual collision data while you were designing a signal region. You might unconsciously craft your selection in such a way to force an excess of data over background prediction. To avoid such human influences, particle physics experiments “blind” their analyses while they are under construction, and only look at the data once everything else is in place and validated.

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Figure 1: “Blind analysis: Hide results to seek the truth”, R. MacCounor & S. Perlmutter for Nature.com

See the full article here .

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What is ParticleBites?

ParticleBites is an online particle physics journal club written by graduate students and postdocs. Each post presents an interesting paper in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research.

The papers are accessible on the arXiv preprint server. Most of our posts are based on papers from hep-ph (high energy phenomenology) and hep-ex (high energy experiment).

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Reading a technical paper from an unfamiliar subfield is intimidating. It may not be obvious how the techniques used by the researchers really work or what role the new research plays in answering the bigger questions motivating that field, not to mention the obscure jargon! For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful.

Our goal is to solve this problem, one paper at a time. With each brief ParticleBite, you should not only learn about one interesting piece of current work, but also get a peek at the broader picture of research in particle physics.

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ParticleBites is written and edited by graduate students and postdocs working in high energy physics. Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in applying to write for ParticleBites.

ParticleBites was founded in 2013 by Flip Tanedo following the Communicating Science (ComSciCon) 2013 workshop.

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Flip Tanedo UCI Chancellor’s ADVANCE postdoctoral scholar in theoretical physics. As of July 2016, I will be an assistant professor of physics at the University of California, Riverside

It is now organized and directed by Flip and Julia Gonski, with ongoing guidance from Nathan Sanders.